Game of Cults: Determine Your Desired Action to Formulate an Effective Marketing Plan

Initiating desired actions

In many of these Game of Cults stories, people get abused.

Con artists use deceit and trickery as tools to get someone to give their money willingly.

Take Amarillo Slim. Assume if he’s making a bet with you, this trickster has already figured out his opportunity.

If he said he’d bet you that he could get a cat in the room to pick up your pack of cigarettes and drop them on the hood of your car just outside, you should assume that he had practiced this move or that there was some wordplay you were misinterpreting.

By the way, that was a bet he won at a bar. He knew just how to hold a cat so it would grab an object between its front paws and how to change the way he held the cat once he got to where he wanted the object to drop.

In the case of cults, cult leaders implement strategies to control the behavior and actions of their followers to benefit the few at the top.

Nations use propaganda and asymmetrical warfare to control their own citizens or those of other nations.


In all these examples, persuasion gets you to act against your self-interest.

While we can learn from these methods, we don’t look to act scummy or deceitful.

We look to initiate desired actions that are more positive and joyful.

What desired actions do you want others to take?

The first that may come to mind is to sell more books.

Sure, selling books is joyful to you, but it can be transactional and short-sighted.

Yes, this is a business, but readers don’t want to be treated like cash registers to be rung. Customers will willingly pay for something they desire. We want them buying, not us selling.

My wife, Suze, is friends with one of the biggest Disney travel partners. They have exclusive access to booking Disney experiences and got early access to booking the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser.

They had people calling them saying, it doesn’t matter what the cost, get me on it as soon as you can. This experience costs $1,200 a person per night, and people were prepared to pay more.

Many authors have built businesses upon the ideas in Advantage that make selling superfluous.

How do we go about doing this?

Building trust step-by-step

Think about the next action you want a reader to take.

Make it as easy as possible to execute, reward them for doing so, and lead them to the next action.

Honor them where they are and understand how far that might be from where you want them to go.

Sure, you can ask for a sale, but will that get you the sale or only build resistance?

Think back. Why are con men and hustlers so successful? They build trust. They get you to make the next move toward their goal.

The Yellow Kid ran dozens of cons at the Hawthorne Racetrack. For one in particular, he’d meet someone in Chicago who could service the racetrack, then offer to help them to get the work at the racetrack.

For example, one mark was a guy who sold hot dogs. The Kid met this guy at a bar and struck up a conversation. After learning he was a German butcher and proud of his sausages and hotdogs, the Kid knew how he would play him.

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After warming the wealthy butcher up, he said, “Your hot dogs should be sold at the racetrack.”

“Yes, they are far better than anything they serve there.”

“As it happens, I know the concessions manager at Hawthorne and can give you an introduction.”

“I would like that very much. I’m sure if he came by my shop and had a sample, he would agree.”

“Oh, he’s too busy for that. You’ll have to meet him at the track. Maybe I can get us an appointment. If I do, you’ll need to be ready to meet him on his schedule.”

A few weeks later, Weil let the butcher know he had secured an appointment. The two traveled to the track and walked into the concession manager’s office. The man behind the desk was introduced, and the butcher quickly began talking about his wonderful sausages.

The concessions manager stood up and said, “Let’s go down to the concession alley, and you can tell me more.”

As the two walked along, the manager listened intently as the butcher told him about his wonderful hot dogs and how happy the racetrack customers would be.

The manager shared the monthly concession fees. Meanwhile, another man came up to the group and told the concession manager that his boss needed to see him now.

“I need to go,” the manager said. “If you agree to what Joe asks of you, then I’m prepared to have you start the first of next month.”

“Very good, sir. This is an excellent decision,” the butcher agreed.

After they left the track, Weil shared that the butcher would need to pay a fee above and beyond the monthly rent to secure the concession. The rent went to the track, but the concession manager needed money to pay his gambling debts.

The butcher agreed, and the deal was settled.

On the first of the month, the butcher showed up to the track to take over the concession, but no one knew what he was talking about. When he asked to speak to the concession manager, the man who came to meet him wasn’t the man Weil had introduced him to.

This was the real manager. The other had been one of the Yellow Kid’s compatriots. They had waited for a day when the real manager took off, snuck into his office, and ran the scam.

Why did it work?

Much of the mark’s behavior was driven by the trust Weil had built up around the story he told. Then, the mark filled in the blanks.

Small steps over time that increased trust.

This is not unlike Amarillo Slim’s strategy. He would lose for days, allowing the other gambler to adapt his behavior and fall deeper into the trap.

Let’s apply these ideas to our marketing.

Focus on the path you want to take the customer down. They will willingly pay for your books. When done right, you’ll be the one holding up the process because they’ll be waiting for you to get them the next product to buy—your next book!

But before we get there, you need to build up the trust and move them, step by step, from being unfamiliar with your work to having some fraction of attention and trust.

When you get that, it must be rewarded—read a free book, get another sample—give them something to celebrate that completion of an action.

In order to influence behavior, utilize repeating patterns and micro trust-building to nudge a prospect over to where you want them.

Consider your newsletter.

What behaviors do the emails you send elicit? Where do you want readers to be?

If you want them to anticipate your email, you need to have it worthy of anticipation. You need to routinely deliver something worthy of reading and engaging with.

Use mine as an example.

Why do I include links to videos on YouTube? If I want to keep the reader’s attention, wouldn’t sending them to YouTube be a mistake?

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It’s a risk worth taking. Videos create a more profound experience by providing multimedia learning and context from other sources. Knowing each email will help them learn makes readers more inclined to click on the next one and build a reputation with email systems with each click.

Why are the emails so long?

This is also counterintuitive. When emails are long, readers are less likely to get through the whole thing without losing concentration.

This is natural. We are predisposed to scan emails to evaluate their worth before moving on. Most emails are digestible and uninteresting, so my goal is to create something different. Write the one that stands out.

Also, I’m looking for readers who seek deeper and denser material, not just clickbaity “top ten” lists that never go deep.

I’m looking for the hard-working reader who wants more from their content—and so I’m giving it to them.

What about opening loops and building through several emails before completing the idea?

While that is a way to keep anticipation up and use curiosity to keep the reader interested, solidifying a complex idea for your readers also helps.

So, how do you write a newsletter people want to read?

By delivering value.

One more thing…

Analyze every desired action you seek. Break it down into bite-sized bits.

Get granular, design ways to simplify, and get the subject to adopt the action and get a payoff.

Action => Reward

If you use a reader magnet, do you focus only on getting them to read that magnet?

Do I want to read your first book after finishing that magnet?

​​​​​​Are you even clear on what action you desire?

Getting this entry point optimized means that every prospect will have a higher probability of converting.

Read: Betting on Fail-Proof Wins